- By Mark Schmetzer Contributing Writer
Joey Votto walked into the Reds Great American Ball Park clubhouse before Thursday’s three-game series finale against the Chicago Cubs and Rob Butcher, the club’s vice president of media relations, greeted him with a “Congratulations, Joey.”
The Reds’ first baseman responded with a smile, “Now I get my full pension.”
Votto officially reached 10 years of major league service time Thursday. The left-handed hitter — who joined the Reds for the first time Sept. 4, 2007, after Triple-A Louisville’s season ended — needed fewer than 10 calendar years to reach that full-pension threshold, based on the way Major League Baseball calculates service time.
Votto made his major-league debut that day, striking out as a pinch-hitter against Guillermo Mota in Cincinnati’s 11-7 loss to the Mets at home. He made his first career start the next day, going 3-for-3 while homering off of John Maine for his first career hit and RBI in a 7-0 Reds win.
Votto, giving a peek into his future, would go on to tie for the club lead that September with seven doubles and rank second with four home runs and 17 RBIs while getting at least one hit in 18 of his 21 starts, including six in left field. He produced a double, home run and five RBIs in the Sept. 30 season finale against the Cubs.
Since then, Votto has finished second in the voting for National League rookie of the year, been named the National League MVP, played on five All-Star teams and won a Gold Glove. He has logged more games at first base than any player in franchise history and this season surpassed Ted Kluszewski for homers by a Cincinnati first baseman. He went into Thursday’s game 10th in Reds career RBIs with 818 and fifth in career home runs with 254, including a franchise-record 138 at GABP.
Oh, and that pension? He may not need it as much as he joked about it. Votto is in the fourth season of the $225 million 10-year extension he and the Reds agreed to April 4, 2012 – the largest contract in franchise history. Those 10 years were tacked on to the two-year contract he’d already agreed to and carry through 2023 with a club option for 2024.
New daddy: Catcher Stuart Turner was scheduled to leave the team and go on three-day paternity leave after Thursday’s game. He planned to head home to Louisiana, where his wife, Danielle, was going to have labor induced on Friday for their first child. Her original due date was Aug. 30.
With Devin Mesoraco on the disabled list, that would leave the Reds with only Tucker Barnhart to handle the duties, and his wife, Sierra, is scheduled to have her labor induced Sept. 1 unless their son arrives sooner.
“Stuart will head home after tonight’s game and we’ll have to add a catcher,” manager Bryan Price said with a smile. “We hope that while Stuart’s away, the Barnharts don’t have their baby.”
The Reds plan to promote a catcher from within the organization, and they will have to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for the addition. That most likely will involve placing right-handed pitcher Scott Feldman on the 60-day disabled list after he underwent season-ending surgery on his right knee Tuesday.
Did Price know the identity of the new catcher?
“I do,” he said. “I don’t know if he does, so we’re not ready to announce that yet.”
Clearing hurdles: First it was batting practice Wednesday. Next, it was pitchers’ fielding practice Thursday. Right-hander Homer Bailey, who left Tuesday’s game after three innings with irritation in the back of his right shoulder, participated in both workouts and seemed to be on track to make his next scheduled start Sunday against Pittsburgh.
“He’s fine to throw,” Price said.
Familiar foe: Right-hander Robert Stephenson (1-4, 6.13 ERA) still is only a rookie, but he already has made six career appearances against the Cubs and he is scheduled to make his sixth career appearance and fourth start — more than he’s made against any other team — against Pittsburgh in Friday’s 7:10 opener of a three-game series. Stephenson is 3-2 with a 6.38 ERA in his five previous games against the Pirates, including 2-1 and 4.35 this season.
Pittsburgh’s scheduled starter, right-hander Ivan Nova (11-10, 3.81), is 3-4 with a 4.20 ERA in seven career starts against the Reds, including 0-2 and 5.25 in two starts this season.